When We Close Our Wombs
A month ago, I joined millions of women who have gone before me, making the difficult yet freeing decision to close my womb through surgery.
After getting married at age 35, I unsuccessfully tried to conceive a child for over five years. And then my general reproductive health issued what felt like an ultimatum: I experienced such intense pain and bleeding during my monthly cycle that something must be done.
The Centers for Disease Control found that 27 percent of women in the U.S. use female sterilization as their method of birth control. And according to a leading reference in reproductive health, Contraceptive Technology, "Sterilization continues to be the most commonly used contraceptive in the United States… with 700,000 tubal sterilizations and 500,000 vasectomies performed in the U.S. annually."
Ironically, after years of trying to conceive, I would "get my tubes tied," a procedure that stops a woman's eggs from traveling from her ovaries into the fallopian tubes. As my monthly cycle became unbearable, my gynecologist recommended an endometrial ablation, an outpatient procedure that destroys the uterine lining and would likely help with my symptoms and prevent a hysterectomy. Just one catch, of course: pregnancy afterward was dangerous and extremely risky. My doctor said I would need to use birth control; since I reacted adversely to hormones, permanent sterilization seemed like the best option. At this point, I called a truce with myself. Together, with tears and some groaning before God, we decided to move ahead.
Still, as a follower of Christ, I wondered: Should God be the one to close my womb? Of course, many Roman Catholics and conservative Protestants do believe this. And as people who live by the Bible, this reservation does not seem unfounded. When Abraham sinned by asking Sarah to lie, God kept all of the women in Abimelek's household from conceiving (Gen. 20:18). In Hannah's story of infertility, it says God had closed her womb (1 Sam. 1:6).
In both cases, closing the womb was a curse—but the wombs were ultimately opened in response to prayer. In fact, in the Bible, we read story after story of God helping the infertile, bringing life to the once-empty wombs of Sarah, Rebekah, Hannah, Ruth, and Elisabeth. "For nothing will be impossible with God," the angel said to Mary the mother of Jesus, after announcing Elisabeth's pregnancy in old age.
Nothing will be impossible. For my husband and I, pregnancy was not impossible, but it also had not happened. It doesn't for many couples. Surely, God could have allowed us to get pregnant and bear a child, but as we grew older, the fulfillment of that longing became highly unlikely. And in that terrifying place, I began to realize that God had never promised us children. He had simply promised us himself. I actually felt a measure of comfort in having a surgery that would help me to view myself not simply as a walking uterus with fallopian tubes, but as a child of God who is defined by far greater things than her ability to give birth.
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